How to deal effectively with age differences in the workplace

Most workplaces have employees that vary in age. One of the most common questions I get - has to do with helping employees and leaders - create cohesive work groups out of teams with large age differences. 

- What requirements do different generations need? 

The big shocker is that there isn’t really much of a difference between generations. They have the same levels of narcissism and emotional problems. They also have similar levels of conscientiousness and stick to itiveness. The big difference actually has to do with social trust. Older people grew up in a time of social investment and as a result – have a lot of social trust. Younger people have been experiencing social disinvestment – so they have low levels of social trust.  This difference in trust may make it seem to an older person that a younger person is less invested. And they may very well be because in their experience, you can’t trust others to follow through on their promises – because society hasn’t.

What younger people need – most companies can’t supply – which is the concept that if they give themselves to the company – the company will reward them for their hard work.  The social trust for that equation – just isn’t quite there for younger people and for good reason.

- How do you avoid workplace conflict and keep everyone happy 

Humanistic communication strategies and a lot of compassion. Everyone has issues. Everyone. The tendency is for people to think they are right and the other person is wrong when a conflict arises. The way around that is to create team cohesiveness. So that everyone sees themselves as part of the same team – working towards a common goal or problem to be solved.  This way – conflicts are seen as disagreement over best course of action as oppose to being seen as life and death struggles for the righteousness of our tribal cause, whatever that is. Disagreements are ok – conflicts are not. Everyone is on the same team getting the same thing done. This means treating everyone with dignity and compassion. If there is a disagreement  - don’t turn it into a conflict. Ask questions so the problem can be solved collaborative. This is true for all groups, not just for groups with age differences.

- How to motivate teams with a mix of generations

Dignity and compassion – for everyone. Foster a culture of social trust and create psychological safety so that people can air disagreements without them blowing up into conflicts. The best solutions are created collaboratively – and that means everyone has input. If you can create a culture where people can pose contrary positions and ideas without being attacked for having different ideas and instead – having those ideas seriously considered, you will create a culture of trust, which will help ensure that disagreements – don’t escalate and that everyone is motivated to contribute because they know their contributions will be welcomed and considered as valid.

And this trust – brings us back to the top. What do people need?  Trust.

To learn more - I have a course on bridging the generation divide – millennials and boomers at Humanist Learning Systems.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...